Monday, November 15, 2010

The Unfulfilled Romantics

In his book Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller shares a remarkable quote from Ernest Becker's book The Denial of Death. I wanted to share it as Keller quotes it because it puts into words a sentiment I have been chewing over for quite some time. Becker, in this quote, is talking about the modern secular man who is looking to fill his life with meaning, though he has abolished God as being the one to fulfill his desires:
He still needed to feel heroic, to know that his life mattered in the scheme of things....He still had to merge himself with some higher, self-absorbing meaning, in trust and gratitude....If he no longer had God, how was he to do this? One of the first ways that occurred to him, as [Otto] Rank saw, was the "romantic solution."...The self-glorification that he needed in his innermost nature he now looked for in the love partner. The love partner becomes the divine ideal within which to fulfill one's life. All spiritual and moral needs now become focused in one individual....In one word, the love object is God....Man reached for a "thou" when the world-view of the great religious community overseen by God died....After all, what is it that we want when we elevate the love partner to the position of God? We want redemption - nothing less.
[Keller, Page 28]
Our culture - and our Facebook profiles - are full of people who pursue romantic love as their chief object of fulfillment. We all know people who jump from person to person in hopes of finding "the one" (think of Ted Mosby on How I Met Your Mother). But "the one" never emerges, so long as "the one" is seen as a savior, as a redeemer, as the one who will fill our heart's emptiness. This widespread pursuit of romantic salvation is too ubiquitous to need any rigorous evidence.

And yet listen to the radio, or watch a daytime soap opera for three minutes (maybe even less than that). Look at the latest second-rate poem that the lovesick teenager has posted to her blog or at the numerous "dating simulators" that are sold on various game systems. Look at the latest Dove chocolate advertisement or listen to Taylor Swift's self-centered teenage ramblings which are being gobbled up by the millions. If you are not convinced, after this brief perusal of pop culture, that romance is seen as the only truly meaningful form of salvation, then you are blind and deluded (not in the cool way).

"The One" is a construct. It isn't real. It is a mirage. Beauty, grace, and fullness of character can only be found in an infinitely satisfying, never-let-you-down kind of way in the person of the infinitely satisfying, always faithful, and infinitely interesting person of God, come to us in the person of Jesus Christ. This is not a canned answer. It is the real answer. Have the other answers proposed by our culture delivered as promised? Without any qualification, they have not. This is attested to by the commonplace divorces and the constant adultery (in hearts if not in actual physical acts) of the so-called romantics. Considering that the romance-obsessed culturalists have yet to reach the event horizon of personal satisfaction, one is left to wonder why the ruse is still maintained that romance will bring us peace and salvation. Well, the simple answer is that they have no alternatives. Just as in science, so in relationships, modern man has already written off the Divine as even a possible answer to this quandry. Sure, they have their own man-made notions of God which they use to pad over the tough spots in their thinking and in their emotions, and to answer the mysterious questions where it is convenient and unintrusive. But modern man will not and cannot accept God, on His terms, as He has revealed Himself to us in His Scriptures. So the modern is left to wallow in his own filth - or, as Lewis put it, play in his mud pies when he could be enjoying a day at the sea.

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